If your travel plans in New Zealand include both North and South island, chances are you will find yourself in Wellington New Zealand. As this bustling city is also the departure point for the ferry to the South Island of New Zealand.
By the way, Wellington (not Auckland) is the capital of New Zealand.
Read more about taking the Interislander ferry to south island from Wellington
Table of contents
- Wellington Weather
- Wellington New Zealand Map
- 10 Best things to do in Wellington
- 1. Regional parks
- 2. Putangirua Pinnacles
- Wellington city
- 3. Mount Victoria Lookout
- 4. Lambdon Quay
- 5. Wellington cable car
- 6. Wellington botanic garden
- 7. Wellington waterfront
- 8. Cuba Street
- 9. Wellington Museum
- 10. Museum of New Zealand
- The Weta Cave
- 10 Top Wellington Food Spots
- Wellington Accommodation
- AirBnB recommendation
- Free camping spot (for self-contained vehicles only)
- 3 Best value Wellington hotel
The weather in Wellington is slightly cooler than the rest of North Island New Zealand throughout the year:
The warmest months are from Dec to Feb where the maximum temperature can be 20 degrees Celsius and down to 14 degrees Celsius.
While the coldest months are from Jun to August where the temperature can dip down to 6 degree Celsius with the max temperature being 12 degree Celsius.
How much rain does Wellington get?
Relatively speaking, it’s less compared to other regions in New Zealand.
Rainfall averages around 60mm during the summer months and around 80+ mm in the months between late fall and spring (May-Aug).
Oddly enough, October can typically see more rain than the neighboring months, September and November as well.
During summer, you get around 15 hours of sunshine. By contrast, you get around 10 hours of sunshine during winter.
Best time to visit Wellington
Since the weather isn’t too extreme in Wellington, you could go anytime. Just note that the busiest months (tourist-wise) are from March until August (Fall and winter). The other months after September until February are less popular. Which makes November the “cheapest” time you can visit Wellington. As far as accommodations go.
Wellington New Zealand Map
Click on this map under “More options” to change out the points of interest to your liking.
1. Visit a regional park
There are a few regional parks just outside of Wellington New Zealand. The one we went to is called Kaitoke Regional Park:
Getting there requires a drive up in the mountains. Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you start.
Kaitoke Regional Park
Entrance is free. We paid $8 per person to stay overnight there though.
There is a tiny section of the park that was included into the backdrop for the elven location Rivendell, featured in Peter Jackson’s movie triology, Lord of the Rings.
Don’t get your hopes up though:
It is just the arch, some information boards and some trees.
The swingbridge track however, is more enticing. There are longer walks but this one is around an hour. Which makes it a must if you go to Kaitoke Regional Park. If you like being around nature in general, you will love being here.
And during warmer weather, there are places along the river in the park where they allow you to swim.
Yet another set location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson:
2. Putangirua Pinnacles
In the same day as Kaitoke Regional Park, you can see the famous Putangirua Pinnacles (Cape Palliser).
Out of the way from Wellington but worth the 1 hour detour:
Anyways, the view of Cape Palliser and sheep pastures are lovely too.
If anyone’s familiar with the Lord of the Rings Triology movies by Peter Jackson:
The Putangirua Pinnacles were featured in the scene where Aragorn tries to persuade a cursed army to fight for their side. A.k.a The Dimholt road.
Allow at least 3 hours to see the Pinnacles and the lookout as well.
The path starts from the carpark, through some thorny bushes. You come to a fork presently that lets you choose between the stream or the higher ground path (with the lookout).
We took the stream path:
Later on, the path is not so clear but you basically just follow the stream. Cross the stream where needed. Be careful when walking over the gravel and pebbles.
You are pretty close to the Pinnacles (more than halfway) when the rocky path starts to incline:
At this point too, you can take the lookout trail from the steam path. It is a little steep and goes through native bush with wooden stairs at some parts. But you get another nice view of the Pinnacles.
Free parking is surprisingly difficult to find in Wellington city center:
We eventually parked at Wilsons Parking (by the waterfront) which cost us $6 per half hour. Or you can pay $42 for 24 hours’ parking.
3. Mount Victoria lookout
We drove up the hill for this one but there is a walking and cycling trail as well.
If you prefer to walk:
It takes around 2 and a half hours according to the city council site.
If you decide to go with your car:
The drive up is steep and goes through a residential area on a narrow road. There is a visitor car park where you can climb up the stairs to the viewpoint. Easy.
Up at the lookout, you get a 360 degree view of the city. You can also see planes take off from the landing strip at the airport.
My favorite view is of the harbor.
4. Lambton Quay
There are many old buildings here that are older than what we typically see in Auckland.
Sometimes, it feels like we’re in London. If shopping’s your thing, there are an abundance of clothing and shoe shops. After all, this is the main shopping street in Wellington.
5. Wellington cable car
A fantastic (and fun) way to see Wellington city if you don’t have much time!
It takes only 5 minutes (with amazing panaromic views) to get from Lambton Quay up to Kelburn, which overlooks the central city.
Or you can take the steep walk up to Kelburn and then take the cable car down.
At Kelburn, there is the cable car museum, and a cafe. You can also walk to the Wellington Botanic Gardens from there.
The cable car is open everyday with shorter hours on the weekend:
Sunday hours are from 8:30am to 9:00pm while Saturday hours are from 8.30am to 10pm. On weekdays, it’s open from 7am to 10pm.
6. Wellington botanic garden
While the garden features mostly trees and shrubs, there are more flowers if you visit this garden during the warmer months.
In fact, in the summer (e.g. January to February) the rose garden is the main highlight in this well-maintained garden.
If you walk down (after taking the cable car up), it takes around an hour to roam around the garden’s windy pathways before you come out through an old cemetery (Bolton St) and in front of the Parliament building.
It’s nice and breezy up there too with incredible views of Wellington.
7. Wellington Waterfront
And close to Lambton Quay too is the waterfront.
Chic restaurants and a tidy park with a playground line the waterfront.
There is also some sort of sports warehouse there where you can do indoor rock climbing.
8. Cuba street
A really cool street with a Bohemian feel to it. Great to explore if you have some time to spare.
Note: The name does not actually imply that everything on this street is related to the island of Cuba.
There are supposed to be a great selection of boutiques, cafes and restaurants here.
Alas, we didn’t have time to check out the museum:
9. Wellington Museum
Admission costs nothing and the museum (it is the blue building in the photo below) is open all year everyday from 10am to 5pm except for Christmas.
Inside is all about how Wellington came to be the city it is today.
The other musuem you may have heard of is:
10. Museum of New Zealand
Or Te Papa Tongarewa or just, Te Papa. This is New Zealand’s national museum .
And Te Papa is also free entry. Opening hours are every day fro 10am to 6pm (except Christmas Day).
Here’s another marvelous spot in Wellington that has free entry!
This is where a lot of the props (e.g. special effects, weapons, etc) and replicas for the world-reknown Lord of the Rings triology by Peter Jackson were made.
Other movies that they made props for include Chronicles of Naria, Ghost in the Shell, The Hobbit, etc.
You can take pictures with some statues of the characters from the LOTR movie. Or pick out something from the large selection in their gift shop.
They have guided tours (45 minutes) to see their workshop as well. These are priced at $28 per adult. You can’t take any photos during the tour though.
After all that walking around, you might want something to eat:
Honestly, there are too many good restaurants in Wellington.
So, we’ve listed 10 here to make your life easier:
1. Ortega Fish Shack
- Open everyday from 5.30pm to 11pm
- Have to make a booking for this one – excellent atmosphere, food, wines, desserts, service, etc
- Blue 2-story building with a giant mural of a fish-man and a mermaid at the front
For vegetarians, vegans and Indian curry lovers:
2. Curry Heaven
- Not open on Sunday but open for lunch and dinner on other days
- Monday to Saturday from 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM
- Monday to Thursday from 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
- And Friday to Saturday from 5:00 PM – 10:30 PM
- Delicious food, extensive menu and great service
- They have lunch deals
- Go early to avoid a full house scenario
- See their menu on their website here.
- They do takeaways too
- The restaurant is in a row of shop houses with a glass front where the yellow interior can be seen. Their shop sign is red with bold letters in white font.
For the best of both worlds (local and international flavors):
3. The Larder
- Only open for breakfast till lunch everyday except Monday from 8am to 3pm
- Vegetarian and vegan options available
- They have a wine menu
- Walking distance from the Weta Cave
- Great service
- Yummy cakes and good coffee; All dishes are good.
- Locals love this place
- The exterior of this cafe is a blue bungalow with seating arrangements outside
- Here’s a link to their website
Asian food galore with Vietnamese food being the focal point:
4. The Old Quarter
- Open for lunch only on the weekend
- On all other days, they are open for dinner from 5-10pm. They close a little later on Fridays and Saturdays at 11.45pm.
- They offer takeaways, including delivery
- There is a wine menu
- Service and bookings can be messy
- Food is good
- Shop is on a main street, sandwiched between an art gallery (Potocki Patterson Art Gallery) and a shoe repair shop. The shop sign is a white cube.
- Here’s the website for The Old Quarter
If you want to try some local New Zealand flavors and escape the bustle of the city:
5. Chocolate Fish Café
This café is near the airport and around 20 minutes from the city in the secluded Shelly Bay.
Despite the somewhat remote location and it being a weekday,, there were quite a lot of people. The cafe is very spacious though.
We ordered the reputable seafood chowder and house-smoked salmon bagel served with cream cheese, dill and capers.
Those two meals cost us $37, together with a cup of coffee if I remember correctly. The chowder was a good portion size and filling. The bagel dish delicious but small. Better as breakfast.
- The ambiance was cozy and quiet.
- Opens everyday from 8am to 5pm.
- A great place to catch up with old acquaintances.
- The bill can stack up pretty quickly. Be warned =)
A typical New Zealand pub:
6. The Thistle Inn
- Closed on Sundays. On Mondays to Thursdays, they are open from 10am to 9.30pm. While on Fridays and Saturdays, they are open from 10am to 12am.
- Amazing food and service
- Limited vegetarian options
- Beautiful ambiance
- They have a variety beer on tap as well as a good selection of wines
- A restaurant with history, Thistle Inn is one of the oldest surviving taverns in New Zealand (granted, it did get rebuilt before after a fire in 1866 but it’s still in the same spot now.)
- The restaurant gives a short historic tour depending on which day you come. Bookings are required for the tours. More details on their website.
- This is their website
Wine enthusiasts, take note!
7. Noble Rot Wine Bar
- Open for dinner everyday around 4pm to 10pm (On Sundays), or 10.30pm (on Monday and Tuesday) and up to 11pm on Wednesdays to Saturdays.
- Good vegetarian dishes
- Seafood, lamb and deer dishes are recommended
- Great service
- Incredible wine list – they can suggest a wine to go with your main if you are stuck on which one to order 😉
- Exterior of the restaurant is red brick with metal gratings painted black. Twinkle lights and ivy curl around the grating. A simple hanging wooden plaque serves as their shop sign.
- Noble Rot’s website
Lunch option – Contemporary New Zealand food:
8. Neo Cafe & Eatery
- The exterior and interior of this cafe is mostly white and modern.
- Excellent coffee and food
- Super popular with locals
- Lovely service
- If you ask, they can cater to gluten free, vegetarian and vegan diet requirements
- Veggie Brekkie & Eggs Bene are favorites
- From Mon-Fri, they are open from 7am to 4pm. On weekends, they open from 8am to 3pm.
- Their official website is here.
Dinner option – Contemporary New Zealand food:
9. Hummingbird Eatery & Bar
- Beautiful shop front with a lot of curved windows
- There is outdoor seating
- They stay open pretty late! Good for a late night cocktail
- Pleasant staff
- Mostly fish-based dishes
- Food is good but a bit pricey
- Huge selection of drinks
- If you have someone with you, share the slow roast lamb
- Closed on Mondays. Open every other day from 3pm to 4am except on Sundays when they close earlier at 11pm
- See their menu on their website here
10. Cin Cin
- This one’s on Cuba street
- Friendly staff
- Recommended that you make a booking
- Delicious and authentic Italian food and good wines
- Dark exterior for the store front. Shop sign is white with simple font. The four main windows have an arched shape to them because of a wooden frame. =
- Open everyday from 5pm to 11pm
- Website for Cin Cin is here
There is no shortage of places to stay in Wellington but we personally like to avoid the expensive ones:
We stayed at an AirBnB in Lower Hutt (half and hour from the city):
- Great stay and we enjoyed our one night there.
- Cost us less than $40 NZD for the night.
- Not wheelchair-friendly
- You park on the street
- Can use the kitchen
- Share the bathroom with the host
- Clean, cozy and modern
Note: there is a big Pak N Save nearby if you need to stock up.
Free camping spot
This is a free overnight carpark for certified self-contained vehicles. There are clean toilet facilities that are open 24/7 and 16 designated camper van spots.
The bay used to be an old quarry site but the scars are starting to fade. It was very windy when we were there. That made it quite a challenge to cook out from our car but we managed it. Our neighbor even offered that we could cook using his stove in his converted camper bus.
If you’re catching the ferry the next day:
Make sure you depart early. I think we left at 7am.
The bay is not that close to the ferry terminal if you consider all the traffic lights in between. We finally got there at 7.48am. The gate closes at 8am.
Other places to stay in Wellington,
3 Best value Wellington hotel
Note: Photos are from booking.com or the respective hotel’s website
Here are three options:
1. YHA Wellington
Address: 292 Wakefield Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
Phone: +64 4-801 7280
Price: You can get around $62 per night for 2 people in this Wellington accommodation.
- For luxury backpacking.
- Best things about this place is the fantastic central location and great facilities.
- Cleanliness is not too bad.
- Free Wifi and breakfast too.
- If you apply for the YHA membership, you can have 10% discounts at all their branches, and also discount on some selective activities and cafes around New Zealand. Check it out here.
- Here is a link to their website
2. Gilmer Apartment Hotel
Address: 10 Gilmer Terrace, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand
Phone: +64 4-978 1400
Price: A double room can cost around $162 for a night.
- Also known as Gilmer Serviced Apartment.
- Walking distance to Lambton Quay.
- The suites have a small kitchenette and washing machine
- Limited parking and a $20 charge per day for a spot.
- Extremely helpful staff.
- Good sized rooms and suites
- Can be hot in the summer (no air con)
3. Bolton Hotel Wellington
Address: 12 Bolton St, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand
Phone: +64 4-472 9966
Price: ~$200 a night for a double room
- Has a good restaurant
- Perfect if you have an event to go to at the stadium
- Comfortable, clean and gorgeous rooms
- Every amenity that you could want, including a pool and a gym
- Close to the botanic gardens and cable car
- Good buffet breakfast
- Helpful and knowledgeable staff
- Here is a link to the website for Bolton Hotel
There is plenty to see and do in the city of Wellington as well as the surrounding national parks. Here in this post, we show you how you can get the best of both worlds while you’re in this region of North Island New Zealand. And keep within your budget too.
How many days to do you plan to spend in the capital city of New Zealand? Leave a comment below.
Need a rain and windproof jacket to serve your time in New Zealand, regardless of the weather? We recommend the Uniqlo Blocktech Parka – see our review here.
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